Wreck of the Seacor Power is Structurally Compromised
Efforts are continuing to prepare the wreck of the Seacor Power for salvage, although according to the latest update from the US Coast Guard, the structural integrity of the vessel has been compromised. Two months after the accident, the capsized liftboat remains in the same position off Port Fourchon, Louisiana.
After briefing the families of the crew that was working aboard the Seacor Power when it was lost on April 13, the unified command consisting of the Coast Guard and Seacor provided an update confirming reports and pictures that have been circulating on the internet of damage to the vessel. The Seacor Power has rotated from its original position, while the salvors report cracking and separation of the hull from the superstructure. “The separation indicates that the structural integrity of the vessel is compromised,” the Coast Guard said in its update.
As a result of the structural issues that are now appearing, the vessel will have to be raised to the surface and brought to shore in separate sections. The original plan had been to float the vessel and tow it to port.
The Donjon-SMIT salvage team is now outfitting a barge with a pump system that will allow the barge to be submerged and maneuvered under the larger sections of the Seacor Power. Once in position, water will be pumped out of the barge, and it will refloat the larger sections, which will have been positioned through the use of a crane barge alongside the wreck. According to the Coast Guard, this method will preserve the structural integrity of the recovered sections.
Removal of the largest sections is expected to be complete by the end of June, but the timeline depends on factors including the safety of salvage crews, the weather, and any additional structural changes that may occur to the Seacor Power.
In preparation for the lifting operation, salvage teams have been removing small debris and gear from the vessel and the surrounding area, as well as obstructions from the seafloor. The Coast Guard said that the removal of the debris will make room for the equipment needed to raise the vessel, while other reports also suggested that the efforts might be both secure loose gear and lightening the vessel before the lifting operation.
The salvage teams also plan to place safety netting around the openings on each section before it is raised and transported. Equipment from Seacor and the salvage team will remain in the area until the end of July to recover any remaining debris from the seafloor. Oil spill response teams are also on standby to respond to any leak of recoverable oil.
While the salvage operations are continuing, the families and the owners and operators of the vessel have also begun a series of legal steps. Two survivors of the disaster along with the family of one of the missing members of the crew each filed suit on June 8 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana naming Seacor Marine, Falcon Global Offshore, and Talos Energy as defendants. The suits allege that the companies failed to communicate weather warnings issued by the National Weather Service to the Seacor Power. The two survivors told harrowing stories of their escape from the capsized vessel into the Gulf of Mexico waiting two to three hours for rescue.
At least nine civil suits have been filed in federal court. The judge in the cases is issuing orders putting the suits on hold pending the outcome of a countersuit filed by Seacor Marine and the other companies seeking to limit their liabilities under maritime law. Using a formula prescribed in the Shipowners Liability Act that takes into account the value of the vessel, its revenue, and limited compensation for death and personal injury, the companies proposed to the court setting up a fund for the valued at approximately $5.7 million. Claims would be settled on a pro rata basis from the fund.